The Russian invasion of Ukraine has led to multifold repercussions for the nation, as loss of life, property and livelihood hovers over citizens and immigrants. As attacks on Kharkiv and Kyiv continue, people are being moved to underground shelters for safety. A significant number of these are surrogate mothers, who are being led to safety within the cities or in nearby places. Their future hangs loose, torn between wanting to choose their own course of action and having to follow decisions of expecting parents.
Ukraine is one of the few countries with a smooth surrogacy process for western parents who can complete legalities with ease. In fact, surrogacy is a well-paying and sought after job in the country. However, even before the war struck, the conditions and legally binding contracts for these surrogates were tough. They were asked to follow a lifestyle deemed appropriate by the parents, and many had to move closer to their clinics closer to their due dates. While such conditions were acceptable pre-war, as Ukrainian surrogates find themselves in the midst of a humanitarian crisis, the same doesn’t hold true anymore.
Along with the right to decide for their own bodies, most of them wish to stay close to their families in such times. On the other hand, it is only natural for expecting parents to worry about the safety of their unborn child, and thus wanting their surrogate to move to safety. Many have been asked to cross borders to countries where it’ll be safe and legal for them to stay for the time being. Fertility clinics in Ukraine and the US are riddled in panic over the present condition.
Additionally, for women in their third trimester, the situation is dire. According to Ukrainian law, both parents need to be physically present during paperwork post birth, in order to legally establish their parentage. This leaves couples with no choice but to travel to Ukraine, or put their possible parenthood in danger. Many couples, who arrived just before the invasion for paperwork, now find themselves stranded and unable to leave.
As conditions worsen by the day, this dilemma is afflicting more and more surrogates and parents. Underground shelters provided to surrogates host all the necessary facilities they might need, making them wonder if they need to leave their homeland. Alison Motluk of The Atlantic writes, “Most jobs you can quit, or at least put on hold. This one you can’t, really… Even if they defy pleas to go to places of safety, they carry their work with them, inside their body.” An estimate has suggested that nearly 200 surrogate babies are expected to be born in the next three months. Whether they’ll be born in Ukraine, in some neighboring country, or in the US and Canada where most of these parents live, is uncertain.
However, this is certainly further fueling the ongoing conversations across the world about women’s autonomy and the right to decide what is best for them. Add a war-torn nation to it, and the hope of such a right becoming reality gets even bleaker.